William Deverell — Novelist

The official website of William Deverell, Winner of the Dashiell Hammett Award for Literary Excellence in North American Crime Writing

A Life on Trial

A Life on Trial Cover

My one work of non-fiction. This is the opening paragraph: “The blunt instrument was a champagne bottle. The victim was a rich widow. Her manservant stood to gain several million dollars from her will. His name was Mr. Frisbee, and he was charged with Murder One: first degree. The foul deed had been committed on board an Alaska cruise ship, in an $18,000 penthouse suite. Mr. Frisbee, incidentally, had been her husband’s lover.”

Originally published as Fatal Cruise, it’s the true story of a bizarre murder and a controversial trial that I defended in Victoria, B.C., and which made headlines across Canada and the U.S. It is truly about a life on trial, the life of Robert Frisbee, who, after scarred early years, became the secretary and friend of Philip Barnett, a wealthy developer, and his wife, socialite Muriel. Frisbee’s lover, Dan Kazakes, was a bizarre figure with a mail-order divinity degree. The book tells of the tangled inter-dependency of this strange quartet that ultimately led to Frisbee’s trial for a vicious murder on board the Royal Viking Star. It is also the author’s story, my story the travails of a lawyer fighting for a gentle and entirely likeable client.

“With penetrating insight, William Deverell probes the mind of the accused and explores the legal system that tried him. His superb writing skills combine brilliantly with an insider’s knowledge of the courtroom, and the result is a seamlessly constructed, gripping narrative whose suspense never lets up.”

“This is as good as it gets, the real goods from an ultimate insider.” Jack Batten, Books in Canada.

“It not only works well as an anatomy of a murder trial, but also provides the reader with a rare insight into how the defence was prepared and presented in court,” Vancouver Sun.

“Page by page, it becomes more and more compelling until you find you really can’t put it down.” Toronto Sun.

Though currently out of print, it is soon to be re-released in electronic form, but copies are available from this author at $25. Click on “Contact” or find at

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